Fishing in Lake Martin
Background: Located on the outskirts of Alexander City in Central Alabama, Lake Martin is a 39,180-acre impoundment on the Tallapoosa River with an astounding 700 miles of shoreline. Lake Martin is arguably the most popular recreational reservoir in Alabama attracting literally hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. Alabama Power Company impounded the waters of the Tallapoosa River in 1926 near Cherokee Bluffs, on the Elmore and Tallapoosa county border, to form Lake Martin. The lake was constructed primarily for flood control and to supply hydroelectric power to Alabama residents, but it also provides ample recreational opportunities to anglers and boaters.
Private boating access areas and marinas are numerous on Lake Martin; however, many public facilities also exist. The State of Alabama, Department of Conservation, operates facilities at Wind Creek State Park, Smith Landing on Sandy Creek, Madwind Creek, Kowaliga Creek, and Pace’s Point near Camp Alamisco. Numerous other recreational and boating access areas are set aside for public use and listed on lake maps. Topographic maps of Lake Martin are available at local marinas and sporting goods stores.
Fishery: Lake Martin is an infertile, clear water reservoir with a limited abundance of sportfish and baitfish, when compared to more fertile impoundments like those on the Coosa River. The upper region of the lake is the most fertile, especially around the Coley Creek and Elkahatchee Creek areas, while the Kowaliga Creek arm is the most infertile. Many anglers find it difficult to fish in Lake Martin due to the clarity of the water and the abundance of steep, rocky bluffs. Popular species sought by anglers include largemouth bass, spotted bass, striped bass, white bass, black crappie, channel catfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, bluegill and redear sunfish. Special striped bass regulations apply. Due to infertility and thus limited baitfish abundance, competition among sportfish in Lake Martin is significant; therefore, the harvest of smaller fish is encouraged. If small fish abundance is reduced in impoundments such as Martin, the remaining fish are able to feed more efficiently due to a reduction in competition. Lake Martin typically ranks high in the B.A.I.T. program for the percent success category, but low in any indices relating to fish size.
Sampling: Sampling performed in 2011 revealed a high abundance of smaller largemouth and spotted bass, thus the harvest of black bass below twelve inches is encouraged. Abundance of both black bass species was nearly equal, although spotted bass appear to be the dominant species caught by anglers. Growth rates and body condition of largemouth bass were still well below the statewide average. However, growth rates of spotted bass were similar to the statewide average. The spotted bass population also appears to have sifted toward slightly larger and fatter fish compared to past samples.
When compared to other tournaments in Alabma in 2010, Lake Martin ranked second for percent success by anglers. Although the fishery was ranked low for average size of bass, the number of bass per angler and pounds per angler were higher than ever recorded. A 2008 survey of anglers leaving boat ramps indicated that black bass harvest is extremely low and any regulation directed toward improving the fishery would be ineffective.
Black crappie were collected in the fall of 2010 to assess the population. Although crappie growth in Lake Martin is below average among other Alabama reservoirs, the production of moderate to stong year-classes appears to be more consistent. This creates consistent catch rates of harvestable-size crappie each year. A very stong 2003 year-class was still present in the population in 2010. The sample also suggested that a strong 2008 year-class entered the fishery in 2011.
Stocking: Although other fish species have been stocked in the past, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division currently stocks only striped bass into Lake Martin at the rate of 3 per acre. Unlike striped bass, other game fish species such as largemouth bass, spotted bass, black crappie, etc., are able to reproduce naturally in reservoirs; therefore, annual stockings are typically not necessary.
Fishing: Although the most productive times to fish the lake are during spring and fall, Lake Martin is widely considered to be one of the best wintertime bass fisheries in the state. During the summer, clear water, hot temperatures, and numerous recreational boaters sometimes make fishing difficult during the daytime; thus, many anglers opt to fish at night.
Popular bass lures include 4-inch finesse worms, jigs, spinnerbaits, and floating trick worms. Small lures generally produce better than larger ones, which is typical of clear water impoundments. Spotted bass usually relate to deep structure like rocky points, humps, or ledges; while largemouth bass usually remain much shallower and relate to cover like vegetation, brushpiles or log jams in the back of small coves and pockets. Spotted bass are notorious for their schooling behavior in this lake, particularly during colder months.
Lake Martin is very popular among tournament bass fishermen and is unique in that most tournaments are held at the Wind Creek State Park on the north end of the lake, near Alexander City. Wind Creek State Park has a tournament weigh-in station on site. Occasionally, small club or pot tournaments are held at the Kowaliga Creek boat ramp on Highway 63. This lake is a very popular tournament lake because most anglers find it relatively easy to catch fish; however, the fish are generally small and winning weights are low when compared to other Alabama reservoirs. Many tournament anglers find success by catching a quick limit of spotted bass and then spending the remainder of the tournament attempting to catch bigger largemouth bass.
Lake Martin has excellent crappie fishing with large fish being caught frequently. The current state record white crappie (4 lbs. 9 oz.) was caught here in May, 2000. Crappie often congregate around blow-downs or stumps during springtime and can be caught using live minnows. The best crappie fishing is in the upstream areas of the lake, particularly around Wind Creek State Park and in Elkahatchee Creek. During winter months, crappie remain in large schools in open, deep water.
Bluegill can be caught from Lake Martin much easier than in many other reservoirs due to the clear water which makes locating bedding fish much easier; however, care must be taken when approaching these areas. Peak bluegill spawning activity usually occurs near the first full moon in May, and may be repeated each month through September or October. Live crickets or tiny beetle-spins are the best choices when targeting bluegill. Shellcracker are also abundant in the lake and often reach very large sizes. This species is most easily caught using redworms fished on the bottom in shallow coves during late spring.
Yellow perch are a species that have relatively recently appeared in the Tallapoosa River drainage. They are easily identified by their six to nine black vertical saddles across the back, which extend to the white stomach region. A yellowish green coloration covers the rest of the body, while the pelvic and anal fins are orange to red. This species is in the same family as walleye and sauger (jack), but yellow perch do not get nearly as large. It is an excellent tasting fish with very firm, white flesh.
Striped bass are also popular sport fish in Lake Martin. Being an open water species, the striped bass rarely feeds near the shoreline, like other gamefish, so anglers must learn to fish offshore in order to be successful. These fish relate loosely to structure and feed almost entirely upon shad. When water temperatures are cooler, stripers tend to be more active and can be caught near the surface using artificial baits like large white hair jigs, chrome lipless crank baits, and especially Zara Spooks. Their annual spring spawning migration takes them to the shoals located on the upper end of the lake on the main stem of the Tallapoosa River, as well as Hillabee Creek and Sandy Creek. During warmer months, striped bass spend most of their time in deep water (50-80 ft.) and are usually caught using live shad tight-lined beneath the boat. Special striped bass regulations apply.
Bass fishing quality at Lake Martin is assessed from bass club tournament results at here.
If you are a member of a bass club, please consider being a part of our Bass Angler Information Team. We use information from clubs to help better manage your lakes for fishing.
Contact the Fisheries Section's District II office for specific questions about Lake Martin.